All Is Well After a Big Computer Scare

Kansas Viewpoint

Double-check when calling for tech support; number at top of search page led me to scam

Published on: January 13, 2014

The clever scammers are out and about. Here’s one that had me in a panic Monday afternoon and I offer my story by way of warning to all of you who just might fall for this clever scam.

I picked up my office phone to call Unified Messaging and check my voicemail. The automated voice told me that my passcode “does not agree with our records.” I thought I had mistyped the code. So I tried again. Same message.

Huh?

So I quickly looked up a phone number for help by typing “technical support ATT” into a search engine. Without looking at much else, I dialed the 800 number at the top of the list. A man with a rather thick Indian accent answered the call with the words. “Technical Support. How can I help you?”

I explained the problem and was startled when he told me that my home “information network” was likely the cause of the problem. It was likely that every device that had been connected to my network was compromised, he said. He wanted me to log onto my computer and go to a website called letmein123.com which immediately prompted me for a six-digit code that he provided.

Presto! He now has remote control of my computer and I am beginning to totally freak out.

I ask what are you doing? I was calling for technical support from AT&T. Who are you? I remind myself that I called HIM. I looked up the number online. But now I am wondering, why didn’t I get the usual message from AT&T about “I see the number you calling from is …”

He said “I am ATT Technical Support. Your problem isn’t just your phone line. All your devices have been corrupted. You may not have had problems yet, but you soon will.”

Now I am really freaking. But he has a file that appears to be a scan of my computer up on the screen and it ends abruptly with the message NETWORK HACKED!!! HIGH RISK!!!

He quickly throws up a Wikipedia entry on the Zeus Trojan and tells me this is what has affected my computer and it is likely that the hackers have all my banking information and access to anything stored on my computer. It will have to be cleaned and the sooner we get started the better.

I say this is a problem I can’t deal with. I need to call my company IT department right now. He says that won’t be needed he can “fix” the problem by transferring my call to a “certified Microsoft technician” who is authorized to clean my computer and guarantee no new infections for a period of one year. The price $300.

But wait! I will need to have every device that has been attached to the network cleaned. My smart phone, Kindle, I-pod, desktops, etc. He has a “package discount” though. He can clean my entire network for $650 and he can start right now.

I say “No, I have to call my company IT department.”

By now, I am growing more and more alarmed. He more he insists I don’t need my company IT support, the more I know I really, really do.

So finally, I say “Give me a phone number. I will call you right back to authorize getting the cleaning started.” He gives me a callback number and extension and his name, David.

That breaks his connection to my computer and I quickly call the Penton Help Desk, where technician Sam Burns assures me that entire networks can’t be hacked, that there is probably no problem with my computer and that certainly any computer issue would NOT affect my landline telephone. This, he says, is a scam.

He accesses my computer, runs real checks of my system, deletes anything remotely suspicious and congratulates me on my narrow escape. There is no sign of a Zeus Trojan or anything else. He even runs a malware scan to make sure that the scammers didn’t use their brief access to plant something on my computer.

They didn’t. All they wanted was for me to panic enough to give them $650.

Fortunately, I had someone I could trust to call. But I wonder if I might not have fallen for the $300 “clean” if all I owned was one desktop computer and it really did appear to be affected by something sinister.

ATT’s real customer support, by the way, says they NEVER ask for access to your computer and your landline phone is in no way “attached” to your home technology network.

In retracing my steps to figure out how I got myself into this I typed “technical support ATT” into my search engine, Bing. When the search pops up, the first items on the screen have big letters that say “Tech Support for AT&T” and phone numbers. The tiny type on top says “ads related to technical support ATT.” And if you check the web addresses you find the sites are “thetechsupports.com” and “pc-relief.net” Most definitely NOT tech support for AT&T.

Now, I know. And so do you.